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American Express Global Business Travel has agreed to merge with “blank-check”
special purpose acquisition company Apollo Strategic Growth Capital in a deal
that would take the company public with a $5.3 billion valuation. The combination
is expected to close in the first half of 2022, pending shareholder and
regulatory approvals. The company said the move would create the world’s
largest publicly traded business-to-business travel platform.

The merged entity plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange
under “GBTG,” which reflects its new name Global Business Travel
Group, Inc. However, the B2B travel agency will continue to conduct day-to-day
business under its existing name and brand American Express Global Business
Travel, thanks to an 11-year deal that will allow the company to use the
trademark for both its business travel and meetings and events divisions.


Becoming a public company will be a historic milestone on GBT’s growth journey. Commitments from new investors like Zoom, Sabre, Apollo, Ares and HG Vora are a huge vote of confidence in our business and the future of business travel, and meetings and events.”

Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott


The merger is expected to raise up to $1.2 billion in gross
proceeds. New investors include Zoom, Sabre, Ares Management Corporation and investment
advisor HG Vora. Upon the transaction closing, they will join American Express Company,
Expedia Group and travel investment specialist Certares as shareholders.

In addition, GBT has obtained commitments for an
additional $1 billion term loan facility to be established under its existing
credit agreement to repay approximately $600 million of certain existing term
loan facilities and to provide an incremental $400 million of financing for
general corporate purposes, including to backstop potential
redemptions.  

GBT CEO Paul Abbott said in a statement, “Becoming a
public company will be a historic milestone on GBT’s growth journey. Commitments
from new investors like Zoom, Sabre, Apollo, Ares and HG Vora are a huge vote
of confidence in our business and the future of business travel, and meetings
and events. We expect that becoming a listed company will give us the
additional investment capacity to strengthen our commitment to providing
unrivaled value, choice and experiences to our customers and partners.” Abbott
will retain his position in the new company.

“American Express Global Business Travel is an industry
leader with an incredible brand, strong management team and highly strategic
shareholder base,” Apollo partner Itai Wallach said via the company
announcement. “This combination is an exciting and unique opportunity to
support a leading company with strong staying power and the opportunity to
accelerate its growth as a public company.”

The announcement to go public via a SPAC partnership rounds out a
busy year for GBT, which began in January with the acquisition of Ovation
Travel Group
. In May, the company announced it had hammered out a deal with
Expedia Group to acquire the company’s corporate travel division Egencia. The deal
closed in November and, specifically, brought new platforms into the mix at GBT
and will allow the company to give more focus to the small- and midsize client
segment. The Expedia deal also came with an expanded long-term content comment for
Expedia to provide accommodations content to Amex GBT’s Supply Marketplace.

Other SPAC deals in the industry this year include Wheels Up,
which went
public in February
, and Cvent, which announced its SPAC merger plans in
July and is ready to list on the Nasdaq, Dec. 9, CEO
Reggie Aggarwal
told BTN. SPAC mergers have become a popular maneuver for going
public during the pandemic as they allow companies to forego traditional IPO
processes and expedite desired results.



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